WHITSTABLE 2011 by Chris Friel
Isn't this the most incredible photograph?
I found Chris's work on Flickr through my usual method of surfing the site and coming across a photographer whose work is interesting and then looking at his or her favourites and then voila! When I came across Chris Friel's work, I was stunned by its breadth of sheer and simple beauty. This was a man who really cared not only about the work but the people and places her photographed . And I wanted to be taken into that care.
I wrote to him and he responded positively but said that he was really "a landscape person" and "very much a part time amateur" - look at his portraits! They are bloody brilliant. As for being a part time amateur - what has that got to do with it? The man is a genius. He is also one of the nicest people I have met during this project but then you would guess that from his work wouldn't you?
For some weird reason I though that Chris lived in my home town of Brighton but, in fact, he lives in Whitstable and so it was that, on a grey July day in 2011, I travelled by train to Kent. Chris met me at the railway station (mm-mm) and on the way to his house, we stopped off at the sweetest little cafe in what, originally, must have been a corner shop. It had a lovely, homely atmosphere and we had a drink and chatted about this and chatted about that and, almost immediately, I felt that we got on very well. He had already sent me some test shots of his daughter in the sea (which are wonderful photographs in their own right) and so we went on to his house, retrieved his camera and a chair and made our way to the beach onto which his house fronted. Unfortunately, the sea was too rough to go too far in as his daughter had done so we placed the chair on the edge of the water and I sat down and Chris clicked away. He tried to attract some gulls with some bread but they totally ignored us - maybe they are fussy and only eat organic. We returned to the house, a lovely Victorian (?) cottage on several floors and he shot me in the sitting room overlooking the sea. He talked about his involvement with music and the upcoming documentary "One Day" and I talked about my project. In fact, the whole shoot was an absolute joy.
The photographs he sent me were stunning. There were only about eight images - all excellent - and at first it was tempting to choose one where my head or hands were shaking a lot but what struck me most was that they all had a smell of the sea about them and I really liked the one where my head was turned towards the sea and I appear to be thinking either of plunging into the water or maybe dreaming of another time altogether different but where the sea is present. My hands are shaking too (what's new?) and the suit and tie look suitably cool (Lynchian my son Tom said) - it is almost the perfect picture. Pure. Simple. Strong.